Beyond the Loch Ness Monster
There is nothing so frightening as the idea of a seas monster. Unlike T. Rex and other giant dinosaurs , which went extinct , might sea monsters live on ? Might they lurk beneath the leaden cloak of the oceans, breaching occasionally to come into view ? Through the ages , serious mariners have returned to port with accounts of huge snaky beasts baring teeth and trailing feathery mains, undulating through the waves or rearing like a horse. Stories about water serpents have slithered in many cultures.
These legends - from Scotland m North America and China are well known in our popular fishing cultures. But what about the science of sea monsters. In fact there was a time when they did exist. About 250 million years ago, Earth's continents were gathered into one landmass , Pangaea . Shallow seas and the lack of significant marine predators created new niches for many reptiles that had developed on land. They wriggled unto the water , swam , reproduced and died, becoming the fossils on which we know and base our theories and knowledge of sea monsters on. Sea Monsters remain for good reason the stuff of nightmares.
Nessie is the World Famous Sea Monster. " You will never see Nessie in this weather " my cab driver said as we drive the narrow road bordering Scotland's Loch Ness . " It is much too hot for him. He will stay down deep in the loch , where it is cool."
Maybe so, but I stare long and long at the loch's placid waters anyways. It is on days like this , others insist that the loch's surface stillness is shattered , and a creature ( him or her) - a large beast with a back shaped like an inverted boat surfaces briefly , then dives to the depths again.
Nessie is the world famous sea monster. The world's most famous monster, But then again Lake Manitoba has Manipogo. More than a thousand eyewitnesses claim to have seen Nessie the Lock Ness. How many claim to have seen Lake Manitoba's Manipogo Lake Monster. Nessie is only one of the many water monsters. From the musty coasts of Scandinavia to the thick forests of the Congo to our very own Lake Manitoba in the plains of Manitoba North America nearly every culture claims to have seen again and again its own Nessie - whether it be in the Loch Ness of in Lake Manitoba. Manipogo. Manipogo. Manitoba Manipogo. Its all the same lake or world famous "sea monster".
In many instances the legendary lake or sea monsters are linked to actual fossils of marine reptiles that ruled the seas form about 250 million to 65 million years ago. Such are the legends of the lake or sea serpents or monsters be they Nessie or Manipogo.
The few times that Nessie has supposedly been caught on film or by sonar sounding Nessie most closely resembles a plesiosaur , a long necked seagoing reptile that went extinct about 65 million years ago. That a plesiosaur would be alive today . plying the fresh waters of once glaciated Loch Ness or Lake Manitoba defies standard scientific and evolutionary reasoning.
Remarked on local resident of the Loch "Some years ago I was on a boat one night. We were tied up at the end of a mirror calm day. And then the boat was rocked by three foot waves. I was sure that it must be Nessie swimming past". You might expect the teller of the tale to be a local who had consumed too much whiskey , Canadian Rye Whiskey , a case of Labbat's Blue of Molson's beer or a combination of all of the above. However none of the above apply in any sane manner.
It may or may not have been the Sea Serpent. It is true that the shape of the Loch leads itself to strange wave formations after intense storms, Nothing in the end can be determined. Is there or is there not a Sea Monster in Loch Ness ? Is there or is there not Manipogo in Lake Manitoba ?
In the case of the Loch Ness Sea ( or Lake) Serpent it is often the case the sightings are in actuality a large fish perhaps that giant walleye or catfish is the factor behind sightings. What is interesting is that the behavior of the Sea Serpents is not one of an aggressive predator - instead the animals seem rather timid and shy. Manipogo and the Loch Ness monster , for all their size and girth are much more afraid of us than we of them.
This was not always the case/ The first written account of the monster was in a seventh century book on the life of the Irish Saint Columbia. One of this companions was swimming across the river. Ness at the head of the Loch when an "aquatic monster" surfaced , giving an awful roar "attacked with its mouth wide open". The others were "stupefied with terror:, bit St. Columbia coolly made the sign of the cross and commanded the beast to stop. It fled at once.
In those days people most likely imagined the Loch Ness monster as a sea or lake serpent or a water kelpie , a diabolical beast - like those who take laptops and run away , of a combination of a horse's head- creatures said to lurk in the lakes ad coastal waters of Scandinavia and Scotland, Nessie only morphed into a plesiosaur many years after the first fossil of a strange marine reptile was discovered in 1710 in a quarry in Nottinghamshire , England.
By the early 1800's fossil hunters had unearthed more plesiosaur fossils as well as those of other ancient marine reptiles including big eye dolphin shaped ichthyosaurs and the shorter necked pliosaurs with their massive jaws and huge crushing teeth. Dinosaurs had yet to be scientifically recognized and the huge sea monsters of the past - none of them dinosaurs gripped the publics imagination, especially after artists began painting scenes of ichthyosaurs , plesiosaurs and giant crocodiles writhing in combat. Those painting put a plesiosaur like animal into the public mindset. After all nothing like a plesiosaur swims in the oceans or lake Manitoba today.
Nessie got a big boost in 1933 with the film King Kong , set in a land where dinosaurs roam and a long neck creature surfaces from a lake not unlike Loch Ness or Lake Manitoba. That same year a "prehistoric" animal was spied crossing a road near the Loch, The next year the London Daily Mail published a photograph depicting a creature whose small ,snaky head rides above the loch on a long neck : Nessie and ./ or Manipogo was now a certified plesiosaur.
The famous photo of the Lake Monster Nessie taken in April 1934 was revealed as a fraud 60 years later . The Lake Monster fake was constructed and concocted by a young prankster - a hoodlum named Shaun Stevens who joined a fake neck and head to a toy submarine,
This photograph and others have been proved to be hoaxes. Who cares ? Every summer Loch Ness is packed with tourists. Tons of people come from all over Manitoba , Canada and the world - including Detroit , Chicago , California , Los Angeles and other area of the United States to view and look for the mythical Manipogo of Lake Manitoba.
The model of Nessie and Manipogo of Lake Manitoba hunting and fishing is that of a talker. Manipogo is thought to hunt by slinking up to schools of fish - whether they be walleye, bass , pickerel or catfish and use it 20 feet foot neck. The 20 foot neck of this lake monster is half of its great body length. The elongated neck of this serpent serves to effectively hide its bulk in the dim waters behind.
This is the classic model of hunting and fishing of the Lake Monster form - whether it be Nessie of Manipogo. Thalassomedon was built for stealth rather than speed. It carried stones in its stomach for ballast and to aid digestion. Four flippers , each the size of a human let Thalassomodeon glide through the ocean. It hunted waters that covered the US state of Colorado.
Other models for Lake Manitoba's Manipogo include a leviathan named "Godzilla". Scavenging an ichthyosaur , a feeding opportunist , a meal taker of other large and small creatures. Distantly related to the modern crocodiles , Godzilla had paddles instead of feet , a rudder like tail , and a head that resembled a carnivorous dinosaur's. The sea croc or crocodile appears as if to be a Godzilla like creature emerging from a lake or sea. Fossils of this monster have been discovered in the past twenty years. Godzilla should be feared . It did more than simply scavenge . It was a top predator who ambushed large prey.
Other models for Manipogo of Lake Manitoba and Nessie of Loch Ness include a slasher like creature " Thalassomendon". "Thakassoeedon literally lunged at quarry lashing and slashing them from the side. When jaws slam shut, they expel water and with it fish , but not if the head of the lake or sea monster is moving sideways.
Today crocodiles use the technique borrowed from the water lake or sea monsters. Razor sharp interlocking teeth ensure the catch..
In a small auditorium at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills if South Dakota, Kevin Locke , a Lakota Sioux storyteller from Standing Rock Reservation , gently strokes a braided strand of sweet grass, Its power will help bring forth good thoughts and feelings. Then he grips his ceremonial rattle , closes his eyes as an attentive audience of Lakota Sioux children and visiting Boy Scouts he sings a Lakota prayer at the springtime Thunder Feast.
"Leciya tuwa makipanpelo Wizohpeyata Wakinyan Oyate kola makipanpelo"
The words rise and fall to the sound of Locke's rattle and he gives it an extra flourish at the end.
We sing this to welcome the Thunder Nation" Locked explains refereeing to thunderstorms, :Maybe some of you have heard the word Wakunyan before an know its meaning.
One slender Lakota boy raises his hand. "It is the name of our cat - he is orange like Thunder Being".
Locke smiles broadly. "Good ,. good". "That is right". Wakinyan are the Thunder Beings , forces with power. They come with the big cumulus clouds in the spring on the prairies. The Wakinyan bring the rain , the hail , thunder and lightening all the things that renew life after the winter. Best in the long ago , days before humans, the Wakinyan also used these things in a big battle. And that battle was with the evil water monsters the Unktehila".
There were many different kinds of Unktehila, Locke continues , but most were like huge reptiles with scaly skins and horns: some were like giant lizards, and others were like serpents , some slithered on their bellies , and some had feet. "They ate each other and every other living thing and so the Thunder Beings were given a divine mission to kill the Unktehila. That is when the Thunder Birds came with their thunder and lightening. They struck the water monsters with lightening bolts and boiled their lakes and streams until they dried up. After that most of the Unktehila died or were diminished in size so that all we have today are some small snakes and lizards. But we know that the giant Unktehila lived because people found their bones in the Badlands and along the Missouri River.
Indeed , long before paleontologists arrived to excavate the fossils of marine reptiles., North American Aboriginal Indians were carrying away enormous bones that lay exposed on the surface. For the Lakota , Cheyenne and Kiowa ( as well as many other tribes) . the bones held special powers and could be used for healing and for other rituals. And as Locke explained. the bones were also the "physical manifestation of the evil forces the Unktehila represented.
Although Locke had learned about the Unktehila from his elders and sung his prayers of the Thunder Feast many times , he had never seen the kinds of fossils that likely inspired these stories.
Skeletons of a plesiosaur are on display at the Museum of Technology in Rapid City South Dakota. The display covers marine and other reptiles that lived approximately 75 million years ago in the North American geographic areas.
"Wow," he said , nodding appreciatively at the long-necked , fat-bodied plesiosaur. But it was the massive-jawed mosasaur that held his attention. "Now this one " he said pausing to size up the 29 foot long snaky animal , with its fierce array of teeth and double-hinged lower jaw joint that allowed it to swallow large kinds of prey including other monasaurs. "This one is an eating machine. If our people found one of these I am sure would call it Unketehlia."
And . Locke added mosasaur-like -creatures with toothily jaws and horns were often painted with the tepee covers of the Kiowa, Cheyenne and blackfeet. Some Native Aboriginal Americans and Native Aboriginal Canadians had carved images of such creatures into the rocks above the Missouri River and others had made one out of stones along the river's banks as well as Lake Manitoba. "Everyone who sees knows that they are Unktehila".
Paleontologists often find bones of pterosaurs flying reptiles along with the mosasaurs. Adrienne Vandal , a folklorist , suggests that pterosaur and mosasaur remains may well have triggered the stories of the Thunder Birds and their battle with the water monsters.
Do the Lakota , like the people who wait for Nessie to surface regard the Unktehila as still existing ? Locke hesitated "Well , the old Unktehila were killed by the Thunder Birds. That what our stories and folklore say. Some people still fear large bodies of water , and they will say prayers to protect themselves from Unktehila when crossing the Missouri River".
The Power of the Unktehila lies more in what they symbolize than in any hard reality. "They were a negative force and had to be destroyed. That is what the Thunder Birds did for the world. And that is why it is important for us to keep these stories alive. Because there are still negative forces - many that are even more powerful than these water monsters - in the world today.
Fish Lake Manitoba Narrows